Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
A southern Indiana judge who was involved in an early-morning brawl that led to a shooting in downtown Indianapolis in 2019 is ending her 2022 reelection campaign following another undisclosed “incident” and has stepped down from the bench.
Sabrina R. Bell of the Crawford Circuit Court announced Wednesday that she was ending her reelection campaign, just weeks before the May 3 primary election. She has also stepped down from the Crawford Circuit Court bench, according to an order naming a senior judge to take her place.
Bell was first elected in November 2016.
“I always said when I no longer felt called I would be done,” Bell wrote Wednesday in a public Facebook post, referencing a recent incident in which law enforcement was called. “That day has come.
“I have always cared and always put the community’s best interest first. Before my own. Before my family’s. And it cost me everything,” she wrote. “Now it’s time for peace and restoration. The best thing I can do is step away.”
In May 2019, Bell was one of three judges — alongside Clark Circuit Judge Bradley Jacobs and former Clark County judge Andrew Adams — who were involved in an early-morning altercation at a White Castle restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.
While at the restaurant, the trio of judges encountered Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vazquez and an argument ensued. The argument became physical and ended with Jacobs and Adams being shot.
Bell was suspended from the bench for 30 days without pay for her role in the shooting. She has never publicly addressed the May 2019 incident.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Crawford County Republican Party stated this week that sheriff’s deputies responded to an incident involving Bell, according to Fox 59 News in Indianapolis. Details about the incident have not been publicly disclosed, but the matter was referred to the Indiana State Police and a special prosecutor, Fox 59 reported.
Bell confirmed that an incident involving law enforcement recently occurred, writing on Facebook that Sheriff Jeff Howell and his deputies “showed (her) no favoritism. They were by the book. They turned in their reports immediately just like they would anything else.”
“It’s being handled by outside agencies to avoid conflict of interest just like anything else would be,” Bell continued, adding there was no “conspiracy” against her.
A local trial court order obtained by Indiana Lawyer indicates Senior Judge Susan Orth is presiding over the Crawford Circuit Court as senior judge for 24 hours a day until further order of the court. The trial court order was signed April 13 by Harrison Superior Judge Joseph Claypool, the assignment judge for District 24, which includes Crawford, Harrison, Orange and Washington counties.
In the order, Claypool wrote, “Upon notice it is my reasonable belief that the sitting Judge of Crawford Circuit Court is unavailable.”
Bell was facing a challenger in the May primary. Justin Mills, a solo practitioner based in Marengo, was also seeking the Republican nomination.
In a Wednesday post on Facebook, the Crawford County Republican Party urged voters to put their support behind Mills.The party urged voters to go to the polls and actually vote for Mills, as Bell’s name will remain on the ballot.
According to WAVE 3 News in Louisville, if Bell gets more votes than Mills, she will have to officially withdraw from the race.
“My time will come friends and I will share with you everything,” Bell wrote on Facebook. “I have nothing to hide and no reason to hold back any longer. I’m looking forward to speaking my truth and being able to heal from it and be free.”
Former judge Adams — who was suspended for 60 days without pay and who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in connection with the May 2019 shooting — lost his 2020 reelection bid to Republican Dan Moore.
Jacobs — who was suspended for 30 days without pay and was the only judge to publicly apologize for the shooting — ran unopposed in 2020.
Vazquez, one of the men involved in the shooting, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to 180 days of home detention plus a year of probation. Adams was sentenced to one year, all suspended, without probation.
Kaiser, the alleged gunman, is scheduled for a May jury trial on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of battery.